Russia at Paris: a Preview

In 2011 Russia was the fifth largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world, and will probably be in the top five for 2015. So any contribution by Russia to further reducing world levels of GHG could positively influence the Paris negotiations for an agreement to succeed the Kyoto Protocol.  Unfortunately, this will not happen.

Starting in 1990 Russia’s industrial economy collapsed, and its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions dropped nearly 40%. Russia “kept” its commitment to keep emissions below 1990 levels. As provided in the Kyoto Protocol, Russia was entitled to emissions credits worth billions of dollars, which it sold to EU countries.

Other parties to Kyoto proposed the elimination of these credits as they were due to the timing of the Kyoto Protocol and not earned. Russia objected to any reduction of credits and so refused to participate in the second round of Kyoto. (Russia is not the only one: Canada was the first signatory to withdraw from Kyoto.)

The 2014 Lima agreement required COP parties to quantify their intended nationally determined contributions (INDC’s) to the reduction of greenhouse gases for the post-Kyoto period ending in 2030.  Russia’s INDC appears to apply its emission credits to its own future emissions, and so will not commit to further reductions.

To make this refusal to commit more defensible, Russia claims that growth in its economy to 2030 will result in minimal increases in total GHG emissions. Russia’s INDC explains these minimal increases as a consequence of the reduction of emissions per GDP unit (emission intensity).

The INDC also refers to the extensive forest cover in Russia: 25% of the world’s forest that includes 70% of the world’s boreal forests. Russia will continue to manage its forests as carbon sinks. Russia expects its INDC to be judged in the light of this natural contribution to reduced GHG.

The INDC also stated:

“Reducing GHG emissions by 25-30% from 1990 levels by 2030 will allow the Russian Federation to step on the path of low-carbon development compatible with the long-term objective of the increase in global temperature below 2 degrees Celsius. ….”

 In effect Russia will only consider transitioning to a low-carbon economy after 2030. This conclusion is not surprising.  The Russian economy depends on cheap fossil fuel energy.  Its reserves are plentiful enough to allow the export of large quantities of fossil fuels to Europe and soon to China. Despite an enormous potential Russia has done very little to increase renewable energy sources.

As for Russia’s participation in the Paris negotiations, the INDC states:

 “However, the final decision of the Russian Federation on the INDC in the framework of the new climate agreement will be taken pursuant to the outcome of the negotiating process underway throughout the year of 2015 and the INDCs announced by major emitters of greenhouse gases.”

 In other words, Russia will not finally commit to the minimum responsibilities in its present INDC until the Paris COP or even later.  Russia’s performance at Paris will not contribute to reaching a new agreement.


 For those interested in Russia and Renewable Energy the International Finance Corporation published a good objective study in 2011 that you can read by following this link.